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Years ago, when I was told I had dense breast tissue which caused my doctor to reorder a mammogram, I was not explained what that meant, so I did a little research on it. Here is what I found out.
Firstly, don't panic. It is a common and normal finding. It refers to the appearance of breast tissue on a mammogram. Approximately half of the women who get mammograms have dense breast tissue. Our breasts are composed of milk glands, milk ducts and supportive tissue (dense breast tissue), and fatty tissue (non-dense breast tissue). Women with dense breasts have more dense tissue than fatty tissue that can be seen on a mammogram.The breast tissue that is called not dense appears dark and transparent. Dense breast tissue shows up as a solid white area on a mammogram.
Your doctor can not determine it with an examination. Only a mammogram would show if your breasts have more glandular and connective tissue than fat tissue.
The reasons why some women have a lot of dense breast tissue and others do not is still not known. However there are three indications of it:1- The breast tissue tends to become less dense as we age, though some women may have dense breast tissue at any age.2- Women with less body fat are more likely to have more dense breast tissue compared with women who are overweight. 3- Women who take hormone therapy for any reason, are more likely to have dense breasts.
What are the concerns raised by having dense breasts:1- Some research links higher density to increase in breast cancer, although doctors are not sure why.
2- If you have breast cancer, it makes it more difficult to diagnose as it makes the interpretation of mammogram more difficult.
If you are told that you have dense breast tissue, based on your other risk factors and your personal preferences, you and your doctor may consider additional or supplemental testing.
I hope this information gives you some clarity on the topic, so you don't feel lost and confused -like I was- when I was told I had dense breasts. However, no matter your breast density, you can reduce your cancer risk by making simple healthy choices like exercising regularly, limiting your alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Visit our page The Selene for more information on Women's Health, issues and healthy living.
Sources: Women's Health Magazine, Mayo Clinic.
Photo credit: Pablo Heimplatz